Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Sometimes what's on the tip of your tongue ought not to be said, and
sometimes what's at your fingertips ought not to be typed.

How does one know when it is one of those times?


Thursday, November 24, 2005


For clogged arteries of the interstate highway system that represent people able to travel to be with family, I am thankful.

For children who mix and mingle with grown ups rather than finding a hiding place and plugging their ears with tiny speakers that alienate them from the world, but instead desire to share their interests with the adults who are important to them, I am thankful.

For adults who cherish, converse with, play with, hug, and show genuine interest in the interests of the children, I am thankful.

For a sound-asleep-woman whose body still feels like magic after 19 years on a cold morning, I am thankful.

For children who eat broccoli, I am thankful.

For healthy parents, I am thankful.

For generations gathered, I am thankful.

For gyms, I am thankful.

For peace that passes understanding, I am thankful.

gracias Padre


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

primary sources 3.0

What if we were to start from scratch? What if we admit that we know next to nothing, realize that most of what we know, we’ve made up ourselves, take a good hard look at what we’ve been given and start all over? What would starting over look like? What would Christianity look like if only the gospel were taken to a tribal culture and received?
No cultural bias, no procedures, no prejudices.
Do we believe that it is possible to be a Jesus follower outside our cultural frame of reference? Does the gospel really play without three songs and a sermon? Is it possible to worship without a Wesley hymn, or a Chris Tomlin song?
What if a people were given the gospel, untainted and were to express their belief and embrace of it entirely within their own context?


Monday, November 21, 2005

primary sources 2.0

Recently I was pointing out to my class our problem with the avoidance of primary documents. I asked the class how many of them had read, The Da Vinci Code. Two students raised their hands. I asked how many knew what the book was about. Nearly the whole class raised their hands. I realized that this was a greater analogy than I’d anticipated, because I could make two points from two points of view.
The first point is that everyone knew quite a bit about the book, AND had opinions about it, without having read it. So I made my point about primary sources. All opinions had been formed from others’ remarks and comments, and even those tended to have been aimed at portions of the book, or certain claims that the book made.
The second point was about the book itself, which cites as proof of claims, the art and activities of Leonardo da Vinci, as if da Vinci, 1400 years after the time of Christ, could be the definitive answer to controversial theories surrounding the characters in the story. I pointed out that the book has “canonized” da Vinci’s beliefs, and cites them as proof, just as we canonize the traditions, practices and methodologies, that have developed over the course of a few centuries, and are not so separated in time from da Vinci’s. So basically, in the context of the book, we’ve got third hand information arguing against third hand information.
We are notorious for this. We live third-hand in our understanding of the scriptures, in our understanding of contemporary culture, in our understanding of other Christian denominations, in our understanding of other religions, in our understanding of other individuals. We have taken the concept of gossip and applied it how we relate to the world. We easily cite someone’s written debunking of a book, but have never read the debunked book. We know what “those people” believe, because someone who believes like us told us. We have training retreats, strategy huddles, information seminars – to tell us who our neighbors are, what their interests are, etc., when all this information is available first hand from our neighbors. I can quote contemporary authors’ biblical commentary and never be questioned, but if I quote biblical concepts, I’m asked to back up my argument with scripture. We don’t recognize it. The bible itself sounds foreign to us. Especially in context.
We are a vicarious religion. We study vicariously, we socialize vicariously, we minister vicariously, we preach vicariously, we worship vicariously.
That’s how I feel. But someone may have already told you that.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

primary sources 1.0

We’ve all heard the analogy of many pianos all tuned to a single source. As a by-product all the instruments are in tune one with another. I like this analogy, because I know the devastating results of tuning any other way. So why do we tune in other ways? Why have we thought it sufficient to tune each piano to the one beside it, so that any error along the way gets compounded in each subsequent instrument?
A popular way to tune the guitar is by using the harmonic at the 5th fret as the pitch by which to tune the harmonic at the 7th on the next higher string. This method is acoustically perfect and easy to hear, but our tuning system is not based on an acoustically perfect model. We use a system called equal temperament, meaning that most notes are adjusted a bit out-of-tune, so that we end up with equal intervals across the scale. By tuning the guitar in the method described above, the first string tuned will be 2 cents off from equal tempered tuning. Each string will be 2 cents off from the preceding string, but 4 cents off from the one before that. Each string adds its 2 cent error to the already existing difference between the preceding strings.
Maybe analogies are not what are needed here. Shouldn’t we be able to look back and see that as we’ve tuned each of our strings to the immediately preceding string, that we’ve unquestioningly depended upon the accuracy of that string – so much so, that we will cite it’s frequency as proof that we’re in tune. At each step along the way, each tuning uses as its argument, the presumed accuracy of the ones before it, but it seems not to be noticed that they are all not tuned to one another, the errors seem to be random, and the discordant discrepancies seem to be ignored.
In Christendom, we have canonized commentaries and interpretations, mandates, resolutions, etc., as the basis of our doctrine as if they were to be included in the inerrant, God-breathed canon of Holy Scripture. We are so much quicker to quote Calvin or Luther, or Darby than we are to grapple over the primary sources of the Gospel. We verbally live and breathe by the doctrine of sola scriptura, but in practice, opt for decisions, resolutions, and interpretations made by historical religious figures. A way of discipleship that they, themselves were trying to reform.


Saturday, November 19, 2005


allison and I went to see "Walk the line" tonight. The evening had to be planned to the hilt, because our evenings are chaos, and we're operating with one vehicle. She wouldn't let me ride my bike to work in the below freezing morning, so I ended up driving her truck to work. I got home just in time for her to take Molly to dance, so I grabbed a change of clothes and rode with her to the gym. They picked me up on the way back and Al and I did a quick turn and headed back out to catch the 8:50 movie.
When we got there, the movie was sold out - in 3 theatres - and the Harry Potter line was backed down the street. Everyone in town seemed to have come to see one of these two movies. So we went next door for some joe and a bowl of soup while waiting for the 10:20 showing.
The movie was worth the wait and the late night. I was leery of Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash, despite the good reviews I'd heard. But an hour into the movie, I was convinced he WAS Johnny Cash. Most of you know that I'm a life-long fan, and it was magic remembering these songs during the movie. Very nostalgic as I heard songs that I used to spin on 45s in the living room on a tiny monaural phonograph, and the live songs from San Quentin and Folsom Prison that I used to play on my Grandmother's console stereo.
I cut my guitar teeth on Johnny Cash songs, but I've blogged all this before.
The movie left off only about 3 years before I experienced the "Johnny Cash Show". We drove home with me singing snippets of so many songs, and I think Allison got a glimpse of some more of me that she'd only guessed at before. She said that she'd never heard most of the songs in the movie, but I was amazed at how many of the lyrics I still remembered.
Every kid has a favorite color, a favorite texture, a favorite something, but my favorite was a sound. From the first time I ever heard that nasal twangy telecaster trying to sound like a train, I knew I had to play guitar. Since whenever that was in my formative years, I've forever been in love with sounds.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

more night sky metaphor

Last night, I walked out of rehearsal just as the full frost moon rose above the library. Of course she didn’t wear her ruby pendant – she got up later tonight and didn’t have time to put it on. Mars had beat her above the horizon by about 50 minutes and twinkled above her. I had to stop, turn and take in the brilliance of both of them. As I turned back around to walk back to my office I saw Venus lighting the other side of the sky, preparing to retire for the night.
I thought to myself that it was an almost comical illustration. There they were, Mars and Venus, on opposite sides of the sky. He was just getting up as she was settling down. He could see her over there, no one could miss her, but he could never catch up. Huge sky between. He’ll race all night, and just about the time he gets ready to fall below the horizon, she’ll pop up to light the morning just before the sun.
I wonder if she’s been jealous these past few nights, with him hanging so close to the moon, escorting her across the night sky. I wonder if he gets frustrated as she plays hard-to-get and ducks just as he makes his appearance.
Who knows how they behaved tonight behind the thick clouds that soaked me all the way through on my bike ride home from work. When the sky finally cleared, there he was, in the middle of the sky looking for her, but she’d long since settled down on the other side of the lake.
Right now, the moon shines through high wispy clouds that hide the peak of the Leonid shower. The firewood is all wet, the night is cool and besides the short treks out there to look up with the hopes of catching a shooting star, the observation deck stands empty except for oak tree shadows cast by the moon.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Last night, as the nearly full moon rose, she wore a ruby pendant 'round her neck. It shone brilliant over the horizon, before the moon rose high enough that they both appeared smaller and she outshone her jewelry.
Then, as I drove home from the gym, she was directly overhead, pendant still lying on her collarbone, and a rainbow colored halo encircled them. A cool, but humid sky, mistified the whole scene and softened the edges and made the whole picture rather dreamy. It was beautiful enough that a friend called to tell me, "go outside!" "I'm there," I said.
As I stood and looked straight up at the wonder, I thought of all my recent rambles about time, and the passage of time, the night sky for the marking of seasons, the moon and her 28 day cycle, and I saw, in the disc with a halo, a meter signature. Not merely a time signature though, one that represented perfect tempus, perfect prolation. His time. I looked up and thought, here is God, using a man-made symbol to assure me that his timing is perfect. Though I feel the tempo is dragging, God is playing on the back of the beat too much, his tune is too syncopated, he assures me he knows what he's doing. He's the composer, I'm just to play. He is born in one place and time for all places and all times.
I felt him there. I feel him here. In the exposition, development and recapitulation.


Monday, November 14, 2005

random access apologetic part 6

I think I'll stop rambling on about all this now. But first I have to consider a question.
What if everyone who was anybody was sporting a mullet, and this particular ‘do lasted a good long time, and by-and-by, little-by-little, more and more people began to cut the back of their hair to match the more respectable length of the “business in front” aspect of their ‘dos? What if all the mullet people thought that some serious illness had befallen all those whose hair on the back of their heads was breaking off? Eventually, the number of those who had gotten haircuts would be so great as to cause panic over the epidemic. Studies would be undertaken. Study the atmosphere, ground water, etc. We have to get to the bottom of this.
What if linear thinking brought us to a place where we were asking questions that could no longer be answered linearly. What if some weirdo thinker began to answer those questions, but the answers were so hard to understand, for most, they just had to be accepted, rather than understood.
What if these folks who accepted and memorized taught younger folks whose thought process would be formed by the very information they were being taught? What if the information that had been begrudgingly superimposed on the sequential thought paradigms of a generation, actually caused the younger students to understand things and perceive and process based on that same information. The thought processes that would be hard to grasp by one group, would be the very foundation of the thought process of a new generation.
What if this new generation began to think, observe, process, perceive and express themselves based on this new way of thinking?

Their boredom with sequential activity might label them as “easily distracted”. Their ability to accept things they can’t explain might label them as “disinterested”. Their lack of a need to explain things to accept them, might label them as “slackers.” Their disinterest in one-sided dissemination of information and a desire to ask questions might label them as “disrespectful”. Their refusal to understand the spiritual via the scientific method might label them as unspiritual.
The older generation might observe that this distracted, unfocussed, behavior was caused by some abnormality. It would be observed that an alarmingly increasing number of young people are exhibiting this behavior and no doubt, anxiety over its cause would ensue. Blame would be cast on any number of contributing factors, such as video games, which might not be recognized as an expression of these characteristics rather than a cause. Eventually, without an answer or cure, we’d treat these symptoms with chemicals, and eventually everyone would be using these chemicals to be treated for thinking in the way that interaction and understanding of their environment requires.
What if we all understood that a world with new information requires new methods of processing that information? What if we understood that the information itself is forming new processes in the young minds that store it? What if we capitalized on it in our teaching of the same information rather than trying to correct it and fit round pegs into linear holes?


Sunday, November 13, 2005

random access apologetic part 4

In the real world, everything seems to be becoming more random access. Music reflects it as texture becomes more important than harmony or form, ambience becomes as important as melody, melodic phrases and textual phrases are different lengths, yet superimposed. The “vertical” aspect of music, (or “moment-in-time”) which may be textural, or layers, rather than harmonic interest, is quickly replacing linear direction and functional harmony. Even in pop music, key is sometimes obscured by remote tonal shifts between verse and chorus, and chords are used interchangeably between parallel major and minor keys.
In movies, it is becoming common for the first scene to represent the present time, rather than the beginning of a story that will bring us to the present. Sometimes the ending is told before the story is presented, but can’t be understood without context of the past. Sometimes every scene is a what-if scenario based on the previous scene, and they don’t have to be sequential. Folks who complain about this usually say something like “it was too hard to follow,” but miss the point in that the point may not have been to follow it. Not all stories are best told front to back, and if it is thought necessary to re-order events to make sense of them, many lessons may be lost.
Jesus didn’t tell his story front to back. We argue all day about which events described in the revelation are still to take place or had already happened when they were written. The salvation story is not being told front to back.
In Music Theory I, one of the first things that I talk about is the fact that there is info that we’ll need to go over that won’t make complete sense until they have the next bit as well. It doesn’t matter which thing we discuss first, the other is needed to make better sense of it. Forgive me, but this is true of most everything in life. There is nothing quite as exciting as the epiphany of instantly seeing how so many mysterious things come together to make sense.
Even when speaking linearly, we recognize that we often can’t make sense of something until it is understood in light of later events or circumstances. We say, “hindsight is 20/20.” In music, we use pivot chords to change keys, so that when they are heard, they are interpreted using the context of the current key, but once the ear moves to the new key, the chord is remembered not as having been in the old key, but in how it relates to the new key. We call this re-interpretation. A chord can relate completely differently to the chords immediately on either temporal side of it.
When studying music on a details level, students often wonder how a work can be considered to be in a particular key when, in fact, it visits many keys along the way. But on a higher, broader level, we note that each of the visited keys serve as harmonic movement that help to define the real key of the piece. This is beyond sequential understanding because linearly, the keys seem only to relate to the ones that came just before or just after them.
I often refer to Jesus’ teaching methods to illustrate the putting into place of bits of information to access randomly, but also as an apologetic for artistic expression of the gospel and the courage not always to tell the whole story at once. I’ve mentioned to students that I think it is possible that Jesus rarely if ever spoke straight-up in literal language to his disciples. I think of when he asked Peter who he thought Jesus was. Jesus said that flesh and blood had not revealed that to him, even though Jesus had been, in flesh and blood, teaching him all along. I also think of Jesus’ conversation with the twelve on the night before his death in which he refers to his having been speaking figuratively. The disciples respond to his comments by saying that he is no longer talking in figures of speech. I believe that the whole of Jesus’ teaching never painted a complete picture necessary for understanding, until he was finished. When all the pieces were in place, the lights came on for those who would believe. The salvation story and the kingdom of God could not be understood sequentially, he never presented a step by step process of living in the kingdom, receiving the Holy Spirit, or anything. He told them that the Spirit of truth would come and lead them to all truth. He put the elements in place that would come together to form understanding.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

random access apologetic part 1

I have developed a theory about how this plays in the classroom these days. Outside the classroom, more and more, I see students thinking, processing and operating this way. But inside the classroom, they get aggravated and frustrated when information is presented in any kind of nonlinear fashion. How can this be? Why would someone want to learn in a way that is contrary to how they think?
A few observations come to mind.
Third, the vast majority of folks on the other side of the classroom desk, present things linearly. Therefore, if the student wants to do well, he must learn to gather information in the manner that it is presented, even if it is not natural for him.
First, I am becoming less convinced that students are in the classroom to learn, and more convinced that they are there to do well. “Do well”, and “learn” are no longer always the same thing in education. If the teacher thought they were, he would make the content and concepts more important than the procedures by which it is acquired, and would do his best to present material in a language that translates to learning for the student. But more and more, students’ grades reflect how well they followed procedures than how much they learned or mastered the content or skill. If the student thought they were, he would never ask how can I bring my grade up, because he would realize that his grade reflects what he has learned, and so would know that in order to bring up his grade, he would have to learn the content and use it more completely.
Second, I think that the gap between what is done in the classroom and what is needed in the real world is widening. So the disconnect between how one thinks and learns in the world and how he must think and learn in the classroom appears to be of no consequence. The student doesn’t mind to process classroom information in a different way than he normally thinks, if he doesn’t believe the information is useful outside the classroom. Teachers affirm this belief by continuing to offer content in a way that is different from how the student will operate later.
Teachers tend to present disconnected, out-of-context bits of information for memorization, but often assess the students by testing with questions that require the student to process the information according to a real-life scenario. Often the student has no ability to do this, because it wasn’t presented as something that is “used”, but only as something that is “known”. So the student has no idea how that information is to be used or applied to the very scenario within which they will be operating.
Somehow, we’ve got it into our heads that the info should be streamlined data, extracted and free from distraction so that the student can more easily learn the data. In my classroom, though less than in the past, it may be sometimes felt that the “extraneous” rabbit trails are distractions from the course content, and make it more difficult to “learn”. But I believe it is the context for the course content, and that the content cannot be “learned” if extracted from it. Memorized, maybe, but not learned.


Friday, November 11, 2005

random access apologetic part 5

Since I think this way, of course I believe that web-based, or random access thinking allows for a greater number of possible explanations and freedom to explore and contemplate. It allows me to differentiate symptoms from their underlying causes, and to avoid generalizations that misunderstand cause and effect. It allows for the assimilation of bits of information that haven’t been collected in sequence. It allows for the acceptance and storage of information that doesn’t yet seem to fit into what I already know. It allows me to get terribly confused and follow trails that are of no benefit, or are dangerous, but it allows me to undo them and start again – to re-order. It allows for mystery and belief of the unexplainable.
I’ve never been sorry my mind works this way, only sorry that it is very difficult sometimes for linear, logical, if-this-then-that, thinkers to follow. I call those people powerpoint thinkers. They have a slide on the screen, and the only possible direction to travel from there is forward or back, one slide at a time. One thing leads to another. And it bores me to tears. In my brain, anything leads to anywhere, and if you check out for a minute, you’ll have no idea which turn I took.
In the classroom, I often quickly fill up the white board, and continue. When I need to write something down, I look for a space between other scribbles in which to jot down a word, symbol, phrase, illustration, etc. Half-way through class I glance at the board and wonder if the students are making any sense of what is written. I’ve used this as an illustration of attempting to understand or even experience temporal art at once. Mozart is said to have been able to do this. He is thought to have experienced an entire piece of music at once – as if it were visual art. Once he’d heard a piece, it didn’t have to play linearly in his head for him to recall the entire thing.
When I’ve talked about this with my students, I explain that I’ve presented information temporally, and have written on the board as I went. Finally, everything we’ve talked about is contained on the board, but not necessarily linearly. If the student has been there all along, he can access the information on the board randomly, and doesn’t have to revisit the conversation sequentially. I believe that this causes us to process the information in a different way than it was originally presented and immediately inhibits the danger of storing it without processing it. Mozart could surely understand form better because he could experience the development of thematic ideas at the same time as he was experiencing the exposition. The “fit” of information is more easily recognizable if one allows himself to jump non-sequentially to any bit of other information.
Powerpoint, and powerpoint thinking, not only impede this out-of-sequence processing, but make it virtually impossible.
Some things simply can’t be understood sequentially.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

random access apologetic part 2

Zyklus is an example of what has been called Mobile music because it is a musical version of the visual idea of a mobile, in that it is perceived differently depending on the vantage point of the observer. Once begun, the path and order of the tangents would be different depending on the starting point and thoughts.
For a decade, I’ve described this trait of mine as random access thinking. The term occurred to me as opposed to linear thinking and was related to recording with computers versus magnetic tape (linear). I was intrigued by the idea of pointers that gave direction for the processing of data that need not be stored sequentially. Data stored linearly could be read in any order, and data stored in random places on a disc, could be constructed and perceived linearly as it was read. This allows for non-destructive editing in which an alternative could be created and stored without the loss of the original. A new pointer simply tells the processor to read the alternative instead of the original. One can always decide later to choose the first version. Undo.
Recently, I read some quotes from Chris Seay, who describes this as web-based thinking, likening it to webpages, each of which contain any number of hyperlinks that one can click and find himself on an entirely different trail.
Early this summer, I took it upon myself to gather all my blog posts and to put them into folders, labeled according to topic categories. I ended up with way too many categories, and for the next few weeks, I was constantly, moving files between different folders. Finally, I realized that I was actually placing copies of the same post in several different folders. This is what happens when a random access guy tries to behave linearly. I forgave myself when I realized that there is now some Apple software that decided to try the same thing. I noticed that the new iLife bundle on Macs is geared to organize so that even the most unorganized will be able to find things. For example, iTunes will search your hard drive and make copies of every mp3, and place the copies in special sublevel folders according various identifying information. But, you don’t actually have to allow it to do this if you choose. Itunes can actually just point to all your mp3s and leave them where they already are on your drive and access them directly from there. Of course, this saves disk space. Of course, this is how my brain works. Thoughts are stored at random places on my disk and therefore, seem less likely to get attached to a particular in sequential format and thus not be accessible from any other context. Any context is accessible from any context in my brain. If it gets paired with something with which it doesn’t fit, it is easily removed. For example, purpose and procedure – but that’s another blog.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

random access apologetic part 3

…for Brush Boy and Big Talbottoms
If I were ever to write a paper book, it would have to be a pop-up book in which by pressing on a particular word or phrase, you could cause a different section of the book to pop up and follow a tangent line of thinking sparked by the phrase. How does one make forks in the road in a linear, left-to-right, paper copy? I have to recall that Garrison Keillor nearly did this with so many bogus footnotes in a work of fiction that it was almost impossible to follow the story line – but that’s because the reader, having read the footnote, was still expected to return to the path and linearly follow the story. What if the book could be constructed so that the reader didn’t have to read the book in any particular order, and that, not just out-of-order chapters or sections, but phrases that connect directly to ideas and thoughts in other sections?
In Webernese terms, all combinatorial. For example, I would write a chapter about Anton Webern’s tone rows and link it to that text. The reader would decide whether to ignore the fact that he didn’t know what I was talking about, or to hit the link and go off on a tangent listening to me ramble on about dodecaphonic composition.
There is, in fact, a musical work for percussion called Zyklus, by Karlheinz Stockhausen (b. 1928), (who appears in the crowd on the cover of “Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”, which was quoted by Bono in the middle of another song on Saturday night at the concert in Dallas) that I’d like to model in book form. The work has no beginning or end. The score is bound in a ring-binder but there is no front or back to the score. The player simply starts wherever the booklet falls open. If this idea were coupled with the pop-up book idea to simulate hyperlinks rather than footnotes, then the reader would have a simulated idea of how my mind works.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

bloating the blogosphere

This evening, before I came home from work, I got a call from a far-away-friend, who due to the time difference was on her lunch break, while it was supper time here. She was talking about friends’ blogs and mentioned that she’d given me props on her own xanga. She said she’d never heard of a blog when she first started reading mine, and that when she mentioned it to friends, they had no idea what a blog was either. Interesting, I thought, because I’ve only been blogging for 2 years. How could I get into something on the very front end, ahead of my students, that has in only 2 years become a phenomenon, a household word, and has made it into the dictionary? (no, of course it’s not yet in the Microsoft Office “tools” dictionary, don’t expect a miracle.)
I’m really not that technologically cutting edge, except that in my sphere, I seem to be way out ahead. I remembered that 5 years ago, I was distributing assignments to my classes on-line using PDF files and that I had to stop, because the students were complaining that they couldn’t access the files because they had no internet access, or their computers wouldn’t run Acrobat Reader. Sheesh. I could get no support from other faculty and administration because none of them had a clue what I was talking about. Now they are practically begging the faculty to have course materials available online.
As my students now begin to realize how duped the dude who delivered their dell was, they are oohing over Apple products, but I have to point out that I have used nothing but Macs since 1988, hmmm, come to think of it, that’s all I’ve ever used. But we were talking about blogs weren’t we. Weren’t we?
So after our conversation, I thought I’d see how cutting edge I actually was back in the fall of ’03. So I googled a bit and found a technorati report that showed just over 500,000 blogs in Oct. ’03. Wow! I did feel a little special then, especially since I know so many who have been blogging for much longer than I have. So I looked at the report again, and saw that in March, ’05, technorati was tracking 7.9 million blogs, and that showed that the blogosphere was doubling every 5 months. If you go to technorati now, you’ll see that they are tracking 21 million blogs, which means it’s tripled since spring.
A new blog created every 2.2 seconds, and 500,000 new posts every day.
Who are all these new bloggers? I thought you’d ask. Of course I don’t know, but I do know of a few. Three of them live with me, and I have no doubt that another under my roof will join forthwith. One you’ve met, another, some of you have found, but the latest sneakily built a blog and started posting completely on his own, so none of us knew of him, except maybe technorati.


Monday, November 07, 2005


As the kids and I started home today, we stopped off to see my brother's and sis-in-law's new puppy, and my sister's progress on mom's homeplace which she recently acquired and of which you saw pics back in August when I drove up to rescue Will from the foul clutches of my family, with whom he'd spent nearly two weeks.
Jodi had done much work on the house, but we took a quick scan and spent the rest of the visit outside in the beautiful autumn. It is an incredible joy to see my own children playing at my grandparents' house 34 years after they've gone. Playing in the same grass and climbing the same trees, hiding behind the same rocks as my mom did 50 years ago, as I did 35 years ago.
I snapped a pic of the kids in the big-maple-on-top-of-the-rock. I thought of all the branches on that tree, which had to spend its first years sending roots through a gargantuan boulder before it found its footing. I thought of how trees come together and share roots, and together, send off new branches. The earlier branches begin to disappear from all but memory and the incredible support system through rocky beginnings that they have built and provided so that the subsequent branches can grow thick and long and stay supported.
Yes, there are missing faces on the branches of that tree. But look at the fresh ones! And look at those roots!
Generations are supported on the roots of the past.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

growing young

Thus begins the third round of birthday blogs. It was actually Molly who first received a blog on her birthday when she turned 8. I felt I’d done a fairly good job of it, so I continued it with the boys. I managed to make it through all 3 a second time, but frankly, I think the pressure has gotten too great. We all gathered this evening to surprise Molly with some birthday attention. I tried to think of a good opener that could turn into a good birthday blog. Nada.
Then when the little ones began to weary from playing hard, Molly sought me out and leaned against me, rested her head on my shoulder, and eventually began to melt into my lap. Suddenly my just-turned-ten-year-old was 4 again. Crawled into daddy’s lap and the fear of the inevitable distance that is marked and measured by days like today, was squelched for yet another time. I began to pray that I could have melded daddy/daughter days on b-day 11, 12, 13, 14… ad infinitim, until I just can’t hold her anymore. How does one ensure this?
Gotta say that I was a bit jealous though. When she finally got off my lap and went on with being 10, went on with impressing the young cousins with her size, agility, wisdom, and sophistication, I wanted a shoulder to lean against, a lap to crawl into, arms around me – I was 10 and tired, dependent again for only a moment.
But I know that to stay there would be selfish and would rob me of the much greater joy I felt being the holder.
Crawl into my lap child. Stay a child at heart – trusting, needy, dependent, learning. Nestle under my arm and be comforted.


Saturday, November 05, 2005

life goes on

Not even a sparrow can fall without the Father’s knowledge. But every time a sparrow falls, the world just keeps spinning. James Taylor pondered after his brother’s death, “the sun shines on this funeral, the same as on a birth, the way it shines of everything that happens here on earth.”
I arrived here after dark, and the funeral hasn’t taken place yet, but I’m guessing that tomorrow afternoon, the sun will be shining, same as it was today, same as yesterday. Tonight the sky is brilliant. It is barely chilly out there and great night to drive around out in the country under all the twinkling. I even saw a long, lingering shooting star with a fizzling tail. I wondered why when the world seems to stop, why doesn’t it stop? Why so much normalcy? Why so much beauty in sadness? Do we need creation to moan with us? The crescent moon set bright and beautiful as I came up the interstate tonight, Venus on her shoulder. Orion was rising, Pleiades above the top of his bow, as I broke away from the family hours later to drive under the sky.
All was well. But all was not well. World spins. Life goes on. Yes, that’s it. Life goes on. Not just for those of us left behind to mourn and comfort. Life goes on - much more beautiful night than this, no doubt. Life goes on.


Friday, November 04, 2005

uttermost ends

Steve Saint spoke in chapel this morning. He said so many things that I have said over the past few years. But the reaction to him saying them was quite different than the reaction that I normally get. Especially different than you get if you actually behave as he suggested. Biblical concepts and behaviors sound so wonderful when you’re talking about them, but if you actually live them, they’re just so freakin’ odd.
The difference, I think, is the context into which his comments were directed. He is speaking about reaching cultures “over there”, or “down there”. I’m talking about reaching a culture that is right here. Maybe it’s kinda like singing in the shower. No one can see or hear you. But if you were to sing like that around all your friends? Unthinkable. They’d question your decorum.
But I don’t really think that’s the issue. I think the issue is that we see foreign cultures as lost, and whatever it takes to win them should be done. Domestic cultures, on the other hand, are rebellious and evil, and should be avoided at all costs. We do plenty by setting up shop and leaving the church doors open two neighborhoods removed from where they are. But in reality, if they took us up on our half-hearted invitation, we would do everything in our power to make them feel awkward enough to look somewhere else.
Even though descriptions of culturally relevant and love-based gospel living in other cultures incite agreement and excitement, I feel that they are still accompanied with thoughts that impose our own cultural snapshot onto the methods.
This morning as I teetered before waking, I thought about this in terms of the contextual look and feel and procedures of so much of what we do. I began to wonder if our lack of surprise and wariness about how it is done “there”, is because we allow for things to look and feel different in that context, or if we actually fantasize that it is exactly how we do it here, and if we were to find out otherwise, we would be surprised, shocked, appalled, suspicious, or downright intolerant. Why else would we be so tolerant of progressive, in-culture, lifestyle gospel delivery in a place we’ve never been, but be so angrily opposed to it among our own people? Why do support infiltration and embrace of foreign cultures, but remain suspicious and ostracizing of those who do it among our own?


Thursday, November 03, 2005

this mountain's high

only tears can tell of this holy hour...


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

the dream within the dream

This morning during the rocking motion between sleeping and waking, I had a dream within a dream. Even the fact that I was dreaming within my dream was significant. To have a dream inspired or delivered in a dream is at least symbolic. In this experience, I got in trouble for something and sensed that I was in trouble even though I didn’t know what it was for. The sensation was correct, and I woke twice thinking, “phew, it was only a dream.”
I think the whole thing was an amalgam of conversations and experiences that Allison and I had during the weekend. Some of the conversations had to do with me sensing things about people that they don’t know themselves, understanding things about people that they don’t understand. Sometimes an encounter causes something to pass between people of whom perhaps only one is aware. Often - I am sure of it - the one from whom it passed would never have given it away. Sometimes, I feel I can see into the mind, other times I see into the heart. It is almost always vague or opaque like a sound that you hear on the other side a fence but can’t tell what it is, or a smell of which you can’t know the source.
Anyway, that was the gist of some conversation between Allison and me, but it doesn’t really tell you about the dream. But that was vague too, because it also had to do with sensing. The dream had less to do with sensing things about people and more to do with perceiving a lost course. They are related because people follow courses, and because it has to do with the desire to correct something that is askew. I sense things in people and acquire a desire to help rid them of a source of pain, or an encumbrance.
I think that the fact that I was dreaming in my dream, was a symbolic play on the concept of “dream”. The inner dream was symbolic of “vision”, and idea, a drive. In the dream that encased it, I was actually acting on it, radically and suddenly because it affected a lot of people and a lot of people responded. I saw myself having vision and acting on it – two simultaneous levels.
I wondered if I abuse an ability to perceive, sense and see and understand some things by merely trying to pass the understanding along so that someone else will take action. I constantly battle between the feeling that the path needs correcting, and that a new flight plan needs to be drawn. What is the difference between reform and revolution? Adjusting, or starting over? Is it a nuance? Or a gulf?
In my dream, I acted upon a very real burden that I feel all the time. I acted upon it in a very different way than I have been responding to it. I saw that my subversion had laid a ground work for the next step out of the shadows.
There is only so much you can do to treat symptoms. Often treatment of symptoms provides just enough temporary relief to ignore the underlying condition so that it worsens until the symptoms just can’t be treated any longer.